All the Colors

by | Apr 27, 2018

Colors All Around

Color. It’s all around us; everywhere we look we can see it. Our world is naturally filled with a vast array of colors. In nature colors serve as indicators. They relate to potential mates, predators, prey, or hazards.

If you were to close your eyes and you were told to think of an insect that is black and yellow, what comes to mind? A honey bee, or perhaps a wasp? Does the idea of a bee or insect cause you to become slightly uneasy, perhaps remembering the last time you were stung? This is how color works. It can trigger an emotional reaction. This subliminal perception is what brands need to tap into in consumers with relation to their brand.

Brands all over the world, regardless of their size, cash flow, number of employees, or products use color in their branding. Your brand’s recognition, its uniqueness, and its differentiation can be established and maintained through the use of color. Brands such as Coca-Cola, Tiffany’s, UPS, and more have even trademarked their use of color.

Finding a color for your brand needs to be based on more than just what you like or don’t like. Years ago, I worked with a brand where the founder was adamant that any color could be used for any project except for purple. To him the color was not “manly” or in line with the image he wanted his product to convey. However, purple, depending on its shade, can have different meanings. To some extent how we perceive color can be viewed as a personal preference, but there are common emotions that colors invoke. Let’s go through some standard colors and what they can mean.


Meaning: Red is often associated with anger, risk, or heat. Because of the immediate reactions it conjures, red is considered a high-arousal color. It has been shown to raise blood pressure and increase breathing rate. It can represent both warmth and danger. In some cultures, red is associated with good luck and prosperity. It is also connected with revolution and change.
Use it to communicate:power, sexiness, love, trust, passion, intensity, aggression, action, and hunger.


Meaning: Yellow is related to the sun, joy, and energy. It has a correlation to intellect and clarity of mind. It has a sense of caution and, as a result, causes people to focus. It has a high visibility from farther away compared to other colors.
Use it to communicate:freshness, joyfulness, life/living, and energy.


Meaning:Blue provides stability and is considered the most universally liked color (see below). Blue has a wide range of qualities for reliability and communication. With its correlation to the sky and sea, blue has a calm emotional feel.
Use it to communicate: clarity, calmness, confidence, conservative, trust, understanding, coolness, faith, and comfort.


Meaning:Orange is a combination of yellow and red, as it conveys both joyfulness and warmth. Orange connects with the tropics and sunshine, while providing a sense of health and freshness. Orange is considered one of the least favorite colors for both male and females.
Use it to communicate: mental activity, creativeness, enthusiasm, determination, freshness, youthfulness, and health.


Meaning:Green is considered to represent nature and the environment. It connects with freshness while also providing a feel of good luck. It provides harmony while also providing a sense of financial success. It is a good color to use when trying to convey a sense of money or wealth, as well.
Use it to communicate: hopefulness, relaxation, calmness, trust, and peacefulness.


Meaning:There is a spiritual quality to purple. Throughout time it has had a majestic, noble quality, often associated with royalty. It is generally considered a low-arousal color. It may stimulate feelings of spirituality, mystery, or arrogance. Purple is a favorite among female customers, while it isn’t ranked highly for men.
Use it to communicate: Power, romance, glamour, nostalgia, and introspection.


Meaning:Black is considered to portray sophistication, power, class, and luxury. It can be a tricky color as it is also used to convey mourning and death.
Use it to communicate:Luxury, seriousness, class, and boldness.


Meaning:With all colors options available, there tends to be one that many brands forget about, and that is white. White is often considered a “left-over” color. White provides an openness that should be considered as a part of every brand.
Use it to communicate: Sophistication, seriousness, openness, purity

Knowing how colors interact with subliminal perception is only part of what you want to keep in mind. Your brand’s colors also need to ensure that the color fits with your brand’s personality. The other part you need to keep in mind is that colors are favored differently between men and women.

In 2003 Joe Hallock1 conducted a survey where he provided some insights into color and how color preference varies between men and women.

Favorite Colors

Chart 1. Over-all favorite colors; male and female combined

Among both men and women respondents, the color blue continually came out on top. Blue was the top favorite color at 42%, followed by both green and purple. Blue was also recognized as the most trusted color at 34%, followed by white at 21%. Trust then led to security where blue invoked a higher response at 28% and black at 16%.

Favorite Colors by gender

Chart 2. Over-all favorite colors; male vs. female

While blue was perceived as the clear favorite among men and women, green ranked the same for both groups at 14%. Men did not rank purple as a favorite color, though 3% of women responded that purple was a favorite.

Chart 3. Over-all least favorite colors; male vs. female

Orange among both man and women was determined to be the least favorite color, ranking 33% for women and 22% among men. While some men and women had reported that brown was a favorite color, a larger percentage report brown and being a least favorite color.

Perceived as Cheap

Chart 4. Over-all colors perceived as cheap and inexpensive; male vs. female

When it came to a perception of “cheap” or “inexpensive,” orange and yellow are considered the cheapest or least expensive, at 26% and 22%, respectively.

With all this information, does that mean to simply have everything be blue and call it good? No. You need to look at your brand’s position, personality, and USP to see which colors relate the best. Determine which color(s) best represent your brand and use it accordingly and work it into your brand standards manual to ensure everyone knows the proper usage.

Terms Used:

Brand Recognition: The level to which your target audience can identify your B2C or B2B brand and services or products based on your name or logo. Best Buy, Target, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all examples of companies with strong brand recognition.

Subliminal Perception: receiving and processing subconscious messages that affect behavior.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP): The driving competitive advantage, it is associated with what your brand stands for. Similar to “Value Proposition” and “Brand Promise.”

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